The largest entertainment industry in the world.....
Bollywood= Bombay + Hollywood
Bollywood is the term used to describe the Indian Film industry which in the 70's, overtook Hollywood as the largest film industry in the world. We produce over 1000 films annually and ever one of them must be made in a musical format or no one will pay money to watch them! Bollywood, is not as glamorous on the inside as it appears on the outside- especially if you are a dancer as you are on the lowest rung of an extremely hierarchical establishment. Even though times have changed as a new breed of choreographers and dancers have emerged to bring a touch of class and a whole lot of amazing dancing energy to the screen, the dancers are the hardest working and lowest paid in an industry where it is not uncommon to have thousands of dollars of unpaid fees at any given moment in time.
Bollywood Dance to Bollywood Fusion
Over the years, my attitude towards Bollywood Dance has evolved from a resistance to engage in an industry that has a dark underbelly just like any other entertainment industry in the world, to one of fascination and awe for the richness of experiences that it brings. When I left India in 2005 to pursue further studies in Dance/ Movement Therapy, I was fortunate to have the the opportunity to teach Bollywood Dance when I arrived in Melbourne. This was the start of the transformation of how I thought about Bollywood Dance.
I began to look beyond the industry to the dance form- this way of moving which is so unique to Bollywood films. As part of my assessment for the course, I analysed an Indian/ Bollywood Dance workshop that I facilitated at a school with children between the ages of 5yrs- 12yrs. For a start, the assignment revealed the complexity of Indian dance and its origins; the validity of using Bollywood dance as not only an expressive tool but also a therapeutic one and how inter-related Eastern philosophies and traditions are with contemporary Western models of therapy and well being.
Since I was now teaching predominantly multicultural groups rather than only Indian students, I started to see the cultural differences in how we move- in particular, the relationship to the chest and hip regions as well as the use of the body to express through gesture and facial expression which is very much a part of how Indians communicate. In movement therapy we call this "expressive movement" i.e. movement that is not just functional (picking up a book, leaning to reach for an object etc.) but has an expressive aspect to it where something is being communicated about the mover. Bollywood dance introduces the dancer to a broad vocabulary of expressive movement. Each new way of moving offers the dancer a new way to respond creatively in different life situations without needing to fall back into old patterns of responding that may be restrictive or outdated.
My training in Art Therapy has brought another dimension of awareness to the experience of Bollywood Dance and my teaching methodology is accordingly adapting to incorporate these new insights. Over time I also discovered that beyond the cultural differences of how we move, there is something universal about Bollywood dance that allows people from diverse cultural backgrounds to connect with this dance form and engage with it intimately. In Bollywood dance, not only is every part of the body used to make expressive movements but the entire being (mind, body, heart and soul!) is engaged in expression. When our thought, feels, actions and intentions come into alignment, we have an integrative experience that encourages feelings of wholeness and inner peace. This makes it almost a meditative experience if we can to let go of our own self judgement and ignore the inner critic!
The benefits of meditation are widely recognised now but what about if we use these and other altered states of consciousness within a session where we are being introduced to new ways of moving? What happens if we introduce an element of self reflection and mindfulness i.e. instead of just dancing for the sake of dancing and making beautiful shapes in space, what if we also have time to connect the dots and examine our inner response to all this movement? What if we could connect with those parts of our body or personality that we may be uncomfortable with and take the time to honour and embrace every part of who we are? My own personal journey has shown that there is a wealth of information that we can learn about ourself in this process. For me, meditation, mindfulness and developing self awareness are not just exercises that one must practice at certain times a day or week. They are a constant feature of how I experience life and go about my daily routine.
What people might think Bollywood is like.....
What it is really like....
Click below to read the assignment on Indian/ Bollywood dance that was part of the assessment requirement for the Graduate Diploma of Dance Movement Therapy. Please be warned that it is in an academic style with references etc. so it may not be a light read! :D
Bollywood- break it down!
A few key aspects of Bollywood Dance that fit nicely with the therapeutic use of movement and creative arts :